The Future of Hampton Roads: The Survey
by Jesse Scaccia Monday, January 18th, 2010
The motto of the Hampton Roads Partnership is “Think Regionally, Act Regionally, Live Regionally.”
Which, given the demographics of the region, makes total sense to me.
We live in an extremely diverse region of over 1.6 million people. When you separate it out into towns and ‘cities’, you don’t have much. You have a bunch of overgrown towns and a couple under-developed city.
The goal is to merge common goals in the region.
But when we think about it like one region, you actually have something that could verge on great. We have the ocean, rivers, parks and reserves, what could be a proper city in Norfolk, and what is a nationally known tourist destination in Virginia Beach. There’s NASA, PETA, some excellent arts venues and all the resources that come with being one of the major military hubs in the world.
The old expression “United we stand, divided we fall” comes to mind.
So does “Greater than the sum of its parts.” Except, right now, from where I stand, we feel like stray parts strewn across a garage. What I like about the Hampton Roads Partnership is they feel like the organization trying to put it all together.
To that end they’ve developed the Vision: Hampton Roads survey to gather public input for what the future of this region should look like. AltDaily spoke with the Hampton Roads Partnership’s communication manager, Missy Schmidt, about their organization, the mission of the survey, the importance of our ports, and where we go from here.
AltDaily: For people who haven’t heard of Hampton Roads Partnership, explain a little bit about what your organization does.
Missy Schmidt: There are two lead organizations driving the Vision process: the Hampton Roads Partnership and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.
The Hampton Roads Partnership, chartered in 1996 to “focus on the region’s strategic issues for the purpose of enhancing our competitiveness in the global economy with resulting income and job growth for our citizens,” is the lead organization in this process. Comprised of the chief elected officials of seventeen communities, private sector, education, military, and labor representation from both South Hampton Roads and the Virginia Peninsula, the Partnership is the logical lead for the planning effort. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission is playing a critical role in the CEDS process as the co-sponsor. More on what HRP has and is doing can be found here.
What is the Vision Hampton Roads plan trying to accomplish?
The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) process provides Hampton Roads with a roadmap, i.e., a regional plan, describing economic conditions for the Hampton Roads metropolitan region and includes broad strategies and specific actions of prioritized importance that will position Hampton Roads as a leader in the global economy.
The CEDS experience in Hampton Roads is about creating an ongoing economic development process that is embraced by our region. Vision planning has placed Hampton Roads on a path to regional transformation by embedding a working process in all that we do… to think, live and act regionally.
A CEDS is required in order to apply for investment assistance under Federal EDA’s Public Works or Economic Adjustment Assistance Programs.
Somebody fills out the survey. Where does it go from there? How will they know their voice will be heard?
The last thing we do before the document is final and submitted to the Federal EDA is reviewed the Public Comments received. How? Public Responsiveness Summary: At the end of the process, citizens should be able to spot their “fingerprints” throughout the document and see how their engagement – as much or as little – has impacted results. Responses will be added to comments as part of the final document, and references will be made as to if and where the comment affected the document. These will be added in Appendices X. Section J.
In order to prevent the “illusion of inclusion” and promote more robust public participation, future processes will include soliciting comments throughout the process (including web-based) and building continuous feedback loops including publicly available (especially web-based) responsiveness summaries.
Completion of this Vision document is only the beginning. Annual performance measures are evaluated, updates made and reported to the Federal EDA, and the whole process must be renewed every five (5) years.
What real-world applications will the Vision Hampton Roads plan have? Will it affect actual government policy… be a guideline…?
The strategy is an economic development planning tool intended to aid local governments in decision-making. The document provides an analysis of regional and local economic conditions within the Hampton Roads region, defined as including the ten (10) cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg; the six (6) counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry and York; and the town of Smithfield. Projects, programs and initiatives have been identified that will address economic development in Hampton Roads.
The ports will play a big role in HR’s future.
There’s a lot of talk in the survey about the importance of the ports of Hampton Roads. Do you feel like the magnitude of our ports is known enough locally? Nationally?
Within the Port & Maritime Sub-committee, and actually across each of the four Sub-committees, regional awareness and appreciation of our collective assets was deemed to be a weakness locally. Hampton Roads is more well known on an international level, thanks in great part to the Port of Hampton Roads, tourism and the large military presence here. Our assets are our best kept secret locally.
With this in mind, one of only four (4) strategies set forth by the P&M Sub-committee was to “Gain public support and appreciation of the economic value of the Port to the Hampton Roads region, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Nation.” Under this Strategy are three proposed actions:
Action 1: Maximize growth with appropriate local and regional policies and vision that includes acting with environmental responsibility.
Action 2: Build advocacy coalitions of local, state and federal political leadership by focusing on the distinct needs and interests of each level of government.
Action 3: Engage citizens in issues of importance to the Port and benefits to the region’s economic health to build public awareness.
Becoming more of a tourist destination would also seem to be a priority in this plan. Do you think America sees HR as a tourist destination? Is that how we see ourselves?
Tourism impacts practically all area businesses, contributing to quality of life through the influx of tax revenue, creation of jobs and rise of services and attractions that add to the vibrancy of life in Hampton Roads. Tourism supports the development and enhancement of amenities that local business employees and residents can enjoy. For businesses in Hampton Roads, that means improved recruiting and retention of work force talent and greater quality of life for those employees. The region’s Convention & Visitors Bureaus explain this on their website.
Arts and Culture in Hampton Roads serve as a significant component of the Tourism industry. The arts strengthen our communities, lift our spirits and build a better quality of life for everyone in Hampton Roads. As a billion dollar industry in Virginia (half of which is generated in Hampton Roads), arts and cultural organizations create millions of dollars in revenues for Hampton Roads businesses, attract out-of-state tourism spending, generate millions of dollars in personal income for Hampton Roads’ workforce and entrepreneurs and create thousands of jobs for residents in the region.
Check out the Tourism section of the Resource Library for more details.
In the survey the phrase “sense of place” is used often. Describe what that means and how it is achieved in your opinion.
“Sense of Place” is a catchphrase that captures an overall feeling that you have something distinctive in your region that differentiates you from all others. Studies (by experts at Brookings Institute, Richard Florida, etc.) show that a “Sense of Place” is required, no, demanded, by the creative class of a community. Our lack of awareness of our regional assets is tied closely to building our “Sense of Place.”
That “Sense” has not been defined as yet and the focus of ongoing activities will be about defining how we will begin to align regional efforts to define what Innovation, Human Capital, Infrastructure and a Sense of Place looks like in Hampton Roads.
Why is our region worsening in terms of “Net Migration”? What do we need to do in order to attract younger, better educated people? And how do we attract the jobs and quality of life that will keep them here?
What do citizens think it means and how is it achieved? This is an important component of the Public Comment Period. Has the question been sufficiently included in the Objectives and Strategies? Tell us… The Vision is not just for a select few organizations and individuals in Hampton Roads… it is an economic Vision for all of Hampton Roads.
In what time frame do you think Hampton Roads can realistically accomplish this Vision?
There is much work to be done and many organizations, businesses and individuals will be needed to coalesce and make it happen. There may even be organizational gaps, i.e., one may not exist as yet to tackle specific elements of the Plan. Or, organizations, as in the case of the Partnership, will take on specific components as their new Strategic Plan rather than creating a separate planning process.
As mentioned before, this Vision focuses on a five-year time span. Not everything set forth as an Action will necessarily be accomplished in only five years. But, with this comprehensive, region-wide process in place and hard work, we can make significant changes along the right path to making an impact.
What obstacles do you think the region faces in trying to realize this plan?
The implementation process will be the biggest obstacle. The plan of action is that of alignment, i.e., aligning the missions and objectives of many regional organizations behind a common goal and objectives. Also as mentioned previously, there are still actions to be more fully defined. The Partnership has proposed to act in the capacity of Program Manager and work in tandem with HRPDC to facilitate this alignment and drive accomplishments.
What will it ultimately take for this Vision to become reality?
In a word, alignment. Alignment is the process of having people, organizations and governmental units realize a vision, adopting it as their own and sharing responsibility for achieving it. Regional objectives cannot be achieved to the maximum extent unless the entire system is aligned to support them. In Vision’s Paln of Action, you will notice the proposed stand-up of a new umbrella organization, Innovate!HamptonRoads, and the coordination of specific plan components by a multitude of other organizations in addition to the Partnership and HRPDC: Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance , Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Maritime Association, Virginia Ship Repair Association, Southeast Virginia Tourism Alliance, Virginia Arts Festival, and many others working with them.
AltDaily used to be called 24SevenCities.com, and people often refer to this region as the Seven Cities. Why do you feel Hampton Roads is the proper name?
Just over a year ago, the Partnership started a blog as the answer to the call from Hampton Roads’ citizens for one regional focus, one reliable source of information (think “Wikipedia”), a portal to connect Hampton Roads’ organizations, citizens and civic leaders. We called it http://SmartRegion.org, a name which no one should argue with, right?
We’ve posted about this name on the regional blog, for that very question. Here it is in downloadable form from our website.
P.S. Hampton Roads has ten (10) cities: don’t forget Poquoson, Franklin and Williamsburg! Don’t leave out the counties either which are significant in terms of population and economic impact! And, perhaps we should reach out to the citizens of the Eastern Shore and Northeastern North Carolina/Outer Banks, too…
Our focus should be on inclusion and collaboration now more than ever.